In a land where music belongs solely to Masters, a 12-year-old girl dares to sing.
Cloistered with the other turnaway girls, Delphernia Undersea knows her place is to be quiet and invisible and her role to obediently transform the Masters’ music into gold—a process called “making shimmer.” But somewhere between knowing her place and actually keeping it, Delphernia not only cannot make shimmer, but she flouts Mother Nine’s warnings that the sea swallows girls with singer throats and sings secretly at night, molding her voice’s bright notes into fluttering golden birds. When a strange Master chooses to take her with him as part of the Festival of Bells, Delphernia is suddenly thrust into a dangerous world of music, royalty, unearthed secrets, and freedom in the form of a pale, defiant trans girl named Linna. Music and secrets, in fact, are in the very bones of this debut novel. Chewins’ unhurried, first-person narration by a brown-skinned, curly-haired protagonist deftly reveals a tapestry of magic, power, and rebellion thread by ethereal thread. Questions of stratified gender roles, corruption, and what happens when a society stops asking questions fit with (and even enhance) Chewins’ tale of music, magic, and self-discovery. An abrupt conclusion is the only piece that feels out of place, distracting precisely because readers will have been utterly mesmerized by the rest of the narrative.
Hope is ever the thing with feathers, and feathers abound here. (Fantasy. 10-14)